I'm hoping you can find an answer to a puzzle that is troubling us greatly at another forum. If any of you can find an answer, that will help greatly; the creator of the puzzle had to go to the hospital for several days, so he won't be able to tell us the answer for a long while, and we're completely stumped.

Here's the whole puzzle:

:::::::: ?

Yup--that's it. Eight colons and a question mark. Make sense of that if you will.

Just so you know, I don't have any answers for you; we're completely stumped. Has anyone seen this one before, or does anyone know an answer?

Many thanks.

EDIT: Let me add a few solutions we've discarded/we've discussed with the creator of the puzzle ("Pete" at that link) before he left for the hospital. I looked up several different meanings of colon, and Pete let me know that "No, sorry. I can confirm it isn't the word 'colon,'" which tells me that it's not something like colonate or colonnade or something like that, which I suggested, but rather that it's the ":" symbol itself.

SECOND EDIT: Someone at that forum--Tarathian123--sent it to a friend of his who's a mathematician and computer programmer. He was also unable to figure it out.

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    $\begingroup$ Looks like some kind of rebus? $\endgroup$ Jun 17, 2017 at 15:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Have you tried decoding it using braille? That might work. $\endgroup$ Jun 17, 2017 at 15:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Perhaps it's not just the same letter all through. Maybe? I'll post a partial solution to show what I mean. $\endgroup$ Jun 17, 2017 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ Morse code? Eight dots over / below eight dots. Means : She over she? $\endgroup$ Jun 17, 2017 at 16:31
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    $\begingroup$ This seems too broad without any more information. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Jun 17, 2017 at 17:43

2 Answers 2


possible answers:

nothing; "::"


I think @Sneftel is on the right track, except that it is not a true-false question of the form

p : q :: r : s ?

i.e. is p to q as r is to s?

but a standard analogy question of the form

p : q :: r : ?

i.e. p is to q as r is to what?

It only remains to define p, q, and r as strings of colons such that the total number of colons assigned is four. Most of the possible assignments do not yield very interesting questions.

Setting p = ":", q = ":", and r = "::" gives the tautological

":" : ":" :: "::" : ?

which should be read "is to is to is to as as is to what"

Similarly, p = ":", q = "::", and r = ":"gives the tautological

":" : "::" :: ":" : ?

which should be read "is to is to as as is to is to what"

Both have the answer "::" but for different reasons.

Setting p = "::", q = ":", and r = ":" gives

"::" : ":" :: ":" : ?

which should be read "as is to is to as is to is to what"

which seems to indicate the answer "" i.e. nothing.

Now, with nine colons and a query you can make some interesting questions.

  • $\begingroup$ Many thanks, A.I. Breveleri, but I'm still not sure about this kind of solution. If the analogy is tautological, how does it count as an analogy? And what is the possible meaning? $\endgroup$
    – Salzmank
    Jun 17, 2017 at 21:20
  • $\begingroup$ A.I. Breveleri, Pete got back to us, and you were correct, except that the solution is one dot--"." Thus: four dots is to two dots as two dots is to dot. Now, that is an analogy. Many thanks for your answer, and excellent work! $\endgroup$
    – Salzmank
    Jun 17, 2017 at 22:46

The answer is:



The line is an analogy, expressed in the form seen on standardized tests, but with the spaces removed. With the structure highlighted, it reads as follows: ::::::::? That is, "do two dots bear the same relationship to two dots, as two dots bear to two dots"? The answer is trivial.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Apologies if I still can't quite understand, Sneftel. Thus: $\endgroup$
    – Salzmank
    Jun 17, 2017 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ does one dot bear the same relationship to another dot, and do those two dots bear the same relationship to another pair of dots? How can one guess that when the "comparing colons" aren't set off as they are in your example? Either way, thanks for your solution! $\endgroup$
    – Salzmank
    Jun 17, 2017 at 18:02
  • $\begingroup$ Huh? The relationship between "two dots" and "two dots" is "they're the same thing". That is, clearly, the same as the relationship between "two dots" and "two dots". If you're not familiar with analogy questions, see., e.g. edugoog.com/analogy/question-answer/1.html The question is equivalent to "dog : dog :: dog : dog?" $\endgroup$
    – Sneftel
    Jun 17, 2017 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ I get it, I get it. Dot is to dot as dot is to dot. That's my problem with it; there's no question. The example you gave show how analogy questions are: moon:satellite::earth:planet. But, if that's true for Pete's question, it would be more like dot:dot::dot:dot--which makes just about no sense. You see what I mean? $\endgroup$
    – Salzmank
    Jun 17, 2017 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ Not really, no. $\endgroup$
    – Sneftel
    Jun 17, 2017 at 18:14

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